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AMY KIRK: 'Cindy's Place' ... and other annoying phrases

The sound of fingernails scraping on a chalkboard is just about as unpleasant to listen to as hearing the words, "Cindy's Place."

Cindy's Place is the namesake of the last person who lived in the location not far from our summer lease's fence line and is a reference point I dread hearing. After Cindy and her family vacated the premises, the dilapidated home was torn down and the surrounding area was cleaned up, but Cindy's former address is still used when reporting on the location of livestock and is affiliated with bad news.

When my husband returns from morning cow-checking or we get a phone call from the other cow outfit we share our Forest Service lease with, and they inform me that cows were found in Cindy's, I cringe. If I come upon a small bunch of cows at Cindy's while doing the morning cow-checking, I get that same sarcastic "oh, great," feeling, but when the news comes from someone else, I imagine the situation being much worse.

It's never a good sign when cattle have reached Cindy's. It means cows -- sometimes just ours, sometimes the other outfit's or sometimes from both cattle operations -- pushed through the edge of the unit's fence and drifted east, where they're not supposed to be. What's worse is that there's no water source except any standing water in road ditches from recent rains.

In truth, the mention of cows in Alberson Valley, where cows are allowed to graze -- just not past the east fence -- located a mile or so west of Cindy's, is equally painful if not more cringe-worthy to hear. Alberson Valley is now owned by the government, but the homesteader's name is still used as a reference point.

The Alberson fence needs replaced badly and nobody wants to put up the money to rebuild fence on leased ground that gets used only a couple of months all year. Who wants to spend money to build a new fence on leased ground, especially since the cost of fencing materials has gone up and the lease's availability in the future is unknown? Not the Kirks.

The fence has been spliced, fixed and cobbled together, but these repairs don't solve the problem. As a result, cows occasionally get out, especially after it rains and fills up low spots in the dirt road that parallels the fence on the outside. Every low spot in the road holds enough rain to make cows too lazy to leave the area for a drink at the stock tanks located farther west of Alberson. When there's water available on the oh-so-close other side of the fence, cows put pressure on the weak fence to get a drink close by. Once they get through, they graze there, bask in the trees' shade and sometimes meander over to Cindy's for a visit.

Every year at the annual meeting with the government entity we lease from, Alberson fence is discussed. It was suggested once that they would supply fencing materials and we would do the re-fencing. At one point, there was even talk of redoing the road for logging access, necessitating a new fence, but these appear to be a government deal: overpromised and under-delivered. In the meantime, the fence continues to deplete our baling wire supply.

I can tell you that the grass isn't any greener on the other side of the fence, just that the water's closer.

-- Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at